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Pasco transportation plan: Fewer dollars, less mass transit

The federally required plan guides transportation needs and expenses through 2045.
OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times Pasco County's long-range transportation plan no longer includes a proposed sales tax increase.
OCTAVIO JONES | Times Pasco County's long-range transportation plan no longer includes a proposed sales tax increase.
Published Oct. 16, 2019

DADE CITY — Pasco County’s long-range transportation plan still imagines the area as autocentric in 2045 with fewer future dollars earmarked for mass transit.

That is different from an earlier version of the plan previewed four months ago for the Metropolitan Planning Organization — elected county and city officials sitting as transportation planners.

Why the change?

The more recent version no longer includes the idea of a new sales tax specifically for transportation. Commissioners objected in June when presented with a long-term transportation plan that included the option of adding a separate one-half or 1 percent surtax in 2028 or later, to pay for roads and mass transit.

RELATED: Hey, that Pasco transportation plan includes a new tax increase

A 1 percent sales tax, if added in 2028, could have generated an additional $1.6 billion in new money through 2045.

Instead, the long-term plan budgets $335 million under the assumption that the existing Penny for Pasco sales tax will be renewed by voters. Currently, that penny-on-the-dollar sales tax is used for schools, public safety, transportation, land preservation and economic development. It is scheduled to expire in 2024.

To balance the ledgers, the long-term plan now calls for allocating just 25 percent of future revenue for mass transit instead of 75 percent. That means the plan no longer includes three central Pasco stations for a proposed commuter rail corridor paralleling U.S. 41 or bus rapid transit service near Interstate 75 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

The overwhelming majority of spending remains on adding vehicle capacity through new or expanded roads, said consultant Wally Blain of the Tindale Oliver.

A significant effort is aimed at the State Road 54/56 corridor along the county’s southern tier, which is projected to receive more than $470 million worth of improvements. The long-term plan includes expensive changes to the intersections at U.S. 41 (now in the planning stages) and at Collier Parkway, though that work could be up to 15 years away.

RELATED: Skepticism greets Pasco transit tax idea

There was little discussion from board members, although Commissioners Jack Mariano and Kathryn Starkey asked about improving existing transit routes in their districts. Commission Chairman Ron Oakley wondered about widening U.S. 301 south to Hillsborough County because of congestion on both Interstate 75 and Morris Bridge Road.

The federally required long-term transportation plan must be updated every five years and can be amended. Essentially, it’s a planning exercise to try to balance expected population growth, future transportation needs and projected revenues.

The draft plan can be reviewed at two public workshops: 5 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at New Port Richey Library and Nov. 6 at the Pasco County Historic Courthouse, Dade City. A 30-day public comment period also begins Nov. 1.

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The draft plan is scheduled for final consideration by the transportation board in December.